She meant the pheasants of course. No other winged beings were sacred in her eyes.
“Sorry, old girl. But they appear to survive it.” (The cool good-humour of his father’s tone was balm to Roy’s heart.) “And frankly, with us, if it’s a case of the children or the birds, the children win, hands down.”
Aunt Jane snorted. You could call it nothing else. It was a sound peculiarly her own, and it implied unutterable things. Roy would have gloried had he known what a score for his father was that delicately implied identity with his wife.
But the snort was no admission of defeat.
“In my opinion—if it counts for anything,” she persisted, “this harum-scarum state of things is quite as bad for the children as for the birds. I suppose you have a glimmering concern for the boy’s future, as heir to the old place?”
Nevil Sinclair chuckled.
“By Jove! That’s quite a bright idea. Really, Jane, you’ve a positive flair for the obvious.”
(Roy hugely wanted to know what a “flair for the obvious” might be. His eager brain pounced on new words as a dog pounces on a bone.)
“I wish I could say the same for you,” Lady Roscoe retorted unabashed. “The obvious, in this case—though you can’t or won’t see it—is that the boy is thoroughly spoilt, and in September he ought to go to school. You couldn’t do better than Coombe Friars.”
His father said something quickly in a low tone and he couldn’t catch Aunt Jane’s next remark. Evidently he was to hear no more. What he had heard was bad enough.
“I don’t care. I jolly well won’t,” he said between his teeth—which looked as if Aunt Jane was not quite wrong about the spoiling.
“No, don’t,” said Tara, who had also listened without shame. And they hurried on in earnest.
“Tara,” Roy whispered, suddenly recalling his quest. “I found the Golden Tusks. I’ll tell it you after.”
“Oh, Roy, you are a wonder!” She gave his hand a convulsive squeeze and they broke into a run.
The “bits of blue” had spread half over the sky. The thunder still grumbled to itself at intervals and a sharp little shower whipped out of a passing cloud. Then the sun flashed through it and the shadows crept round the great twin beeches on the lawn—and the day was as lovely as ever again.
And yet—for Roy, it was not the same loveliness. Aunt Jane’s repeated threat of school brooded over his sensitive spirit, like the thundercloud in the wood that was the colour of spilled ink. And the Boy-of-ten—a potential enemy—was coming to tea....
Yet this morning he had felt so beautifully sure that nothing could go wrong on a day like this! It was his first lesson, and not by any means his last, that Fate—unmoved by ’light of smiles or tears’—is no respecter of profound convictions or of beautiful days.